Victoria Fursdon - Classical & Medieval Archaeology in Romania
Arriving in Romania
I was not familiar with Romania or its culture before I left for the project. I had been to Poland the year before, which had made me very interested in visiting another ex-Eastern bloc country especially after in the 2nd year of my history A levels I studied the cold war. This made me really interested in finding out from the Romanian people who lived through these times what their individual experiences were under the rule of Ceaușescu.
Apart from this I knew very little about Romania, so my automatic reaction was to imagine it looking like and being similar to England just with better weather. I was also very nervous about going to another country on my own as I am only 18 and haven’t done too much travelling on my own, though I really didn’t need to be worried as everything worked out and I had an amazing trip.
I had little knowledge of Romania and even less of archaeology. I love history and will be starting to study it at university this year (September 2015) and archaeology seems to go hand in hand with history, hence why I choose the Archaeology project even though my main source of knowledge of archaeology comes from movies.
The Projects Abroad website gave lots of information of my placement, which gave me a vague image of what I may be digging up and other basic information on the site. This meant that was able to research the history side of what I was digging up. Overall I tried to keep an open mind for the whole trip, though I was definitely not prepared for my month away.
The voluntary work in Simleu
I knew that there was a lot of digging involved but I didn’t know how complicated it would be. We had to be at the local town hall for 7am then a big orange truck would take us up the mountains along with the other Romanian workers. The ride up and down the mountain was always breath-taking and stunning every single time I saw it.
At the top of the mountain we would meet the official archaeologists. Both archaeologists spoke English which was very useful and they were really friendly (we even had a BBQ at their cabin one night). We all were given our tasks for the day, these ranged from helping identify and photograph holes, measuring the complexes for drawing and digging bits of pottery and burnt clay.
If it was raining we would go to the next town over and work with the museum where we would wash the pottery that we had dug up for reconstruction. Overall this was very enlightening and enjoyable especially with such a great group of volunteers to work with. The only thing I wish is that I bought trousers with me as I got so many mosquito bites.
The rest of my trip
After over 8 hours of travelling from Brasov to Simleu I was met by the other volunteers and the coordinators, who were very inviting and helped me to settle in very quickly. We had a daily routine for the day, after work we would go back to the priest’s house, where we would all spend time on our own talking to our family and friends, and then at about 6pm the volunteers met for dinner which was normally made by a Romanian woman who worked at the priest's house.
We had such a different variety of food, though being a vegetarian meant I couldn’t always eat all of what was made but I was always provided for. On the odd occasion we would go out for a meal, which was always Italian food. After dinner sometimes we would go out or would all be so tired we would just go back to our rooms. This meant though that we (the volunteers) spent a lot of time together and we got to know each other really well.
On the weekends we were free to go wherever we wanted this meant on the weekend we did a lot of travelling all across Transylvania. I loved travelling so much as we visited many beautiful sites and it meant that I was able to go shopping (as everything was so cheap in Romanian). I didn’t even spend too much money when I was in Romania (less than I was told by Projects Abroad) even though I was very social.